As I’ve mentioned before I was a youth pastor for eight years, and during that time I had the opportunity to use quite a few analogies.
One year on a retreat we were talking about “The Little Things.” In order to demonstrate the power of little things I made a batch of brownies. During the service I called up the largest kid in the group and told him that I made a batch of brownies, as he started to eat one I told him that there was only one slight problem, I put a little bit of dog poop in the brownies. Not enough to make them sick, but enough to make a point. [CONFESSION] I didn’t actually make the brownies with dog poop. The reaction of the kid was classic as he spit out the brownie and was repulsed I would do such a thing!
It’s a powerful and intentional analogy. Think about it? How often in life do we allow just “a little” of something to slip in our lives and ruin the whole batch? Now if Paul were only talking about the little things in our lives, but instead he was talking about the “little things” that slip into our churches.
1 Corinthians 5:6-7 (NLT) 6 Your boasting about this is terrible. Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us.
You Can’t Ignore the Problem
Paul here is writing to a group of people who wanted to simply ignore the problem in their church. They were under the impression that little things couldn’t possibly have that big of an effect on the church. Oh but they do… Regardless of what you feel about the “yeast” here’s the bottom line, sin is sin. This is why Paul used the analogy of yeast.
Yeast is the ingredient that makes bread rise; a little bit is all that’s needed to affect the whole batch. Here me: Sins left unchecked, no matter if in secret or public, affects the integrity of the entire church. Now, what’s important to know about this particular yeast is Paul’s understanding of how serious it was. Paul wasn’t telling the church that if they got rid of one person they would suddenly be purified of all sin, instead, Paul’s fear was that this particular sin, unchecked, would continue to spread.
The Passover Lamb
It’s important to take note of the reference to the Passover by Paul here. The Passover was a community festival. What Paul is saying is that although Christians have individual roles in the church, the life of the church is lived in community. The Passover was also a time when the Hebrews prepared for their exodus from slavery in Egypt. They were commanded to prepare bread without yeast because they didn’t have time for the bread to rise. The connection is, get rid of the sin in the community as to not disregard the sacrifice of Christ, the Passover Lamb.
From the beginning to end of Chapter 5, Paul issues a challenge to the Christians in Corinth. In context, Paul is talking to the church in Corinth, but this passage also issues a challenge to you and me today. The basic challenge is this: Will you continue to turn a blind eye to an blatant sin in the church? It’s hard to read, especially for a people pleaser like me, but Paul reminds us at the end of the chapter that we have a real responsibility to deal with blatant, unrepentant sin of a professing Christian. We don’t do the person sinning, or the church, any favors by ignoring the problem. We shouldn’t look at these verses as permission to conduct a witch hunt. Rather, these instructions are for dealing with the open sin of a Christian who’s sinning without remorse. The most important thing is to handle all of this by prayer, wisdom, discernment, and scripturally. For more information on how Jesus instructed us to handle these sensitive issues, see Matthew 18:15-17.